Online hiking club comes together to rescue injured dog near Chilliwack Lake

Volunteer rescuers step in to save non-human patient when search-and-rescue couldn’t help

Amanda McGregor’s chocolate lab Louie is now recovering from a mountain adventure that brought together dozens of people in the local hiking community.

It began when McGregor’s stepdaughter Janessa picked Louie up at 6 a.m. on Saturday, July 22 for an overnight trek to Radium Lake, a nine-kilometre hike starting from a trailhead near Chilliwack Lake.

A long distance to be sure, but the five-year-old dog is no stranger to romps in the woods with his friend. They’ve done numerous long hikes together over the years.

“He loves going with her,” McGregor said Friday. “She is his favourite person.”

But when 2 p.m. came on Sunday and Janessa and Louie weren’t back, Amanda started to worry.

“And then 5 p.m. we hadn’t heard from her. Then 7 p.m. we are starting to freak out.”

Then at 8:30 p.m. a woman called who had seen the pair up at Radium Lake and told McGregor the dog was injured. Janessa couldn’t get the 90-pound, five-year-old dog down the hike.

So McGregor and her husband called Chilliwack Search and Rescue (CSAR) who told her she had to call the RCMP first. Because Janessa was prepared with camping gear, police said to wait until Monday at noon to see if she was out.

By 1 p.m., no Janessa, no Louie. So the RCMP met the couple at the trailhead. But as they approached in their vehicle, Janessa showed up. She hiked back out to get more food and water for Louie. They were happy to see Janessa was OK, but by seeing her, CSAR and the RCMP couldn’t help anymore.

“Now it’s no longer a human needing rescue, it’s a dog and they don’t get involved,” McGregor said.

On to the next plan. Amanda and John decided they would hike in and try to help carry Louie out on Tuesday.

“We are in our 50s and I’m not the weight I should be and John is not in the shape he should be. We are not meant to climb mountains.”

They made it about three quarters of the way but had to turn back.

Another night on the mountain for Janessa and Louie, who were likely running out of provisions. But on Wednesday morning, Amanda knew she had to do something but police would no longer help so she phoned the SPCA. It had been suggested to her that she check with local hiking groups for help.

She joined the Chilliwack BC Hiking Club on Facebook and at 9:30 a.m. on July 26 issued a plea, ending with: “Is there any way help can go to her to get her and the dog back off the mountain we would gladly pay for it.”

And in minutes, members of the Chilliwack hiking community from across the Fraser Valley mobilized.

There was almost too much of a response with dozens of commenters making suggestions, offering equipment and to come out and help. But Abbotsford resident Iain Harvey took charge and created a separate chat with a handful of folks.

“Everyone was pretty helpful,” Harvey told The Progress Friday. “A lot of people were messaging other people to get involved, even with just equipment.”

A core group eventually formed, Harvey, Toby Hyde, Cody Hamilton, Isaak Hazelton, Matt Horin and Charlene Howard. They met Amanda and John Wednesday afternoon on Chilliwack Lake Road and the group ventured to the trailhead.

The group headed up the trail as fast as they could not long which, Janessa came out at the trailhead.

“She said ‘they’ve gone for the dog and told me to come down because I can’t do anything,’” Amanda said. “She had carried the dog part way down the mountain. She didn’t get very far, she was carrying him on her back falling and stumbling.

“She loves that dog. It’s her pal.”

Sure enough, according to Harvey and Hyde, Janessa had gotten about two kilometres with the dog by herself, and with the help of two other hikers who tried to jerry-rig a stretcher with a tarp and sticks.

But Harvey and the group had a real stretcher lent to them by Laurie McPhee who runs K9ABCs, a pet training service that helps people learn to hike, hunt, swim and otherwise be adventurous with their dogs.

When the rescuers got to Louie, Hyde said the dog wasn’t moving much and wouldn’t walk at all.

“He growled a couple of times when we first got to him but that’s about it,” he said.

So they wrapped Louie up and began the trek back down the trail with the injured dog on the stretcher.

“They are phenomenal,” Amanda said of the group that went up to rescue Louie. “That whole Chilliwack Hiking Club, they are amazing people.”

“We couldn’t have done it without everybody,” Harvey said. “It all worked out really well. It was difficult but it worked out.

“We just hope the dog survives the next few days.”

And therein lies the next big challenge. Amanda said they got Louie to the Animal Emergency Clinic of the Fraser Valley in Langley where he was examined. Louie lost all the skin on his paws and he had festering wounds on his legs. He was dehydrated and suffering from more than one infection.

The first night at the clinic cost $2,000 and the second night $1,500 more. Amanada said if he has to stay over Friday night it will be another $1,500.

“Honestly I don’t want to give up on my dog,” she said. “He’s starting to turn [for the better] but if I have to bring him home tonight, he dies. I can’t do that.”

Another of the rescuers, Cody Hamilton, helped Amanda out by setting up a GoFundMe page called “Louie’s recovery fund.” By Friday at 2:45 the page had raised $545 of a $4,000 goal.

Whatever happens, Amanda is emotional and so thankful to the local hiking community the way they came together for the rescue.

“In this day and age, to know that humans are out there that do this. This is such a positive story about people.”


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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